Productive alternatives to the genius myth
[This post is part of a series on creativity. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Yesterday I wrote some points of how the concept of genius is counterproductive and inaccurate.
So what are the alternatives?
My alternative to calling them geniuses is calling them accomplished, dedicated, in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time (which, if it happens once I call luck, but after enough times I call the result of skills), and other things you can accomplish.
That alternative means recognizing you’ve made choices that moved you away from recognizing your potential. If you chose for reasons you like, that recognition validates you living by your standards. If you chose for reason you regret, you learn a new way to improve your life.
Most people don’t mind that they never organized groups of friends to talk about physics even though the academy hasn’t recognized them, as Einstein did. Most people would never want to sit and play and compose music all day while their friends were out playing. Nor do they work like hell to get published instead of going out dancing.
Your resources are limited: you can do many things but you can’t do everything. When you decide (say to have fun), you kill off other options (like to realize your potential in one area).
That alternative is empowering. It means recognizing what you are capable of, that meaningful achievements are within your grasp. You can then either recognize the value of the choices you’ve made if you appreciate where they’ve taken you or change your behavior if you don’t.
It means taking responsibility and giving up blame and a victim mentality. You replace romance with attainability and recognize the ulterior motivations of anyone using the term. I’ll take that trade any day.
Of course I don’t claim anyone could achieve what Einstein or Jordan did. To reach the pinnacle of any competitive endeavor you need something that field requires, like intelligence or height. But for whatever abilities you have, somewhere there’s a field you could excel in. And to accomplish enough to look at any great person and say “that person is within my grasp” is within your means.
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